OLYMPIA – Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle) has introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Elect Javier Valdez, that would create a wage replacement program that will help those who lose their job and are not eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits.

Unemployment insurance is essential to ensure that those who lose income can survive and meet their basic needs while they are unable to find employment.

Many immigrant workers, however, are not eligible for unemployment insurance and have not received assistance through this program. This includes workers without work authorization, workers whose work authorization has expired or is awaiting renewal, and workers who have recently regularized their immigration status.

“This is a fundamental step towards creating an inclusive system that acknowledges and rewards the hard work and contributions of immigrant workers in Washington state,” Saldaña said. “Our immigrant workers have had to pay the highest price – being left out many social safety net programs due to their immigration status.”

Ineligibility for unemployment benefits has devastated immigrant communities working in low-wage industries. Many of the industries that have experienced the highest unemployment rates in Washington are those with the highest numbers of immigrant workers including the restaurant, hotel, retail and construction industries.

“We need a permanent unemployment fix to plug the gaps in our social safety net so that all workers regardless of immigration status, have equitable access to financial support,” said Valdez.

To support the survival of Washington’s immigrant workers, Saldaña’s bill would establish a weekly wage replacement state program for workers who are unemployed and not eligible for the state and federal unemployment insurance.

“All workers, regardless of immigration status, deserve equitable access to our unemployment program,” states the WA Immigrant Solidarity Network. “They have done the work, paid taxes, and deserve the same financial support to feed their families and keep a roof over their head.”

“This is a racial justice issue, immigrant issue, and public health issue,” said Saldaña. “We must ensure that our immigrant workers and their families are no longer left behind.”

For information: Christian Lamas, Senate Democratic Caucus Communications, 360.786.7050